Republic boss Stephen Kenny out to fulfil ‘big ambition’ and reach Euro 2024
Stephen Kenny has targeted the “big dream” of qualifying for the 2024 European Championship finals so Republic of Ireland fans can relive one of the greatest moments in their history.
Republic manager Kenny signed a fresh deal on Wednesday that runs until Euro 2024, with his assistant Keith Andrews and coaches Dean Kiely, Stephen Rice and Damien Doyle also receiving new contracts to join him on that journey.
And it has not escaped Kenny’s attention that Euro 2024 is being held in Germany, where the Republic’s first appearance at a major tournament came at the 1988 European Championships.
Jack Charlton’s side memorably marked the occasion by beating England 1-0 in Stuttgart through a Ray Houghton header.
“The ambition is obviously to go to Germany and qualify for the European Championships,” said Kenny.
“I realise it’s a big ambition, a big dream, to go back to where Ireland started in the European Championships.
“But we want to go back to Germany, if it’s Stuttgart or wherever.
“That’s the big dream for Ireland and no stone will be left unturned attempting to do that. We have to do everything to get there with this team.”
Kenny had a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Mick McCarthy in April 2020, failing to win any of his first 11 matches.
But the Republic have since recorded four victories in nine games, with their only defeat coming in painful last-gasp fashion against Portugal.
Kenny said: “We have rebuilt the team and the support has really connected with the players. It’s been a radical change really.
We have rebuilt the team and the support has really connected with the players
“We’ve brought 15 players through our own system over the last year or so, which is quite a radical shift.
“The supporters are identifying with the players and the team is playing in a style that people can really get excited by and relate to.
“It hasn’t been straightforward, of course, and we’ve had to come through a difficult period.
“It’s great that we can focus on getting the team ready for the friendlies and the Nations League.
“We’re not looking to overly experiment any more. We know what we have and there’s a great connection between the experienced players in the squad, who are brilliant role models, and the younger players who have come in.
“There’s a great spirit in the squad, you can feel it growing, and I feel we’re going to get better again.”
The Republic begin their 2022 programme against Belgium, the world’s number-one ranked team, on March 26, with the Football Association of Ireland expecting a bumper crowd at the Aviva Stadium.
Lithuania will make the trip to Dublin three days later for another friendly ahead of the Nations League campaign starting in June.
The Republic are scheduled to start their League B campaign at home to Ukraine on June 4, with Armenia and Scotland completing the section.
But that match may be moved following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Scotland-Ukraine World Cup play-off, which had been due to be played this month, has been postponed and rescheduled for June.
FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill said: “We are talking with both UEFA and FIFA in relation to what type of solutions can be found.
“It’s obviously a very complex situation and, as of yet, we haven’t had an answer to our own games. But we will be as flexible and as supportive as we can.”
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